After my brief experience in working in educational technology space, I have come to an opinion that there are plenty of opportunities to make impact.
Educational systems are broken in most countries in the world, Nigeria is not exempted. Right from the primary level to university. As a software entrepreneur I have looked at some of the problems in this space and attempted to solve them with software.
During our extensive research into the EdTech space. I learnt the following things:
1.Educational companies that focus on delivering higher quality solutions to consumers will not scale to the mainstream. Educational companies built around providing value at very low costs for the consumer will scale. Or a corollary, an enterprise sales or government sales company that taps into government revenue streams will scale but will not have a consumer Internet growth curve.
2.Education is a huge market and there are opportunities, clearly education is billions (trillions!) of dollars. There are lots of opportunities, especially if you take a long term view of it and want to build something meaningful for the next 25 years.
3. Don’t believe that building a better product will make you successful. Delivering something for cheaper will. Even if that cheaper thing is lower quality. This is usually repugnant to most well-educated entrepreneurs but its true so you are building a solution and your business model is to build an awesome product with kick-ass UI and UX, just know that the bulk of your users will prefer lower cost to premium design. The most visited site in Nigeria is www.nairaland.com : )
4. Don’t take VC funding because the growth curve in your education business will not live up to VC expectations early on. Take angel money from people who want to make a difference in education. Then take private equity money once you’ve figured out how to get to millions in revenue on your own. Even better, don’t take any PE money and grow it on cash flows. Successful education businesses are often not capital constrained.
7. Don’t expect a quick flip or quick growth. Building a large, successful education company will take 20 years. The growth curve will not be like an Internet technology company until you hit millions in revenue. Then things will ramp quickly because you will have identified your core market and built the beginnings of a brand; the education industry is small and people will know if you deliver real value.
Building solutions to better education in developing countries is a pain in the ass since devices aren’t yet available. Thus, it’s much cheaper and easier to facilitate change with people instead of technology here. The educational system in the developing countries like Nigeria is still stuck in the 60's/70's equivalent of the US when it comes to teaching methods. Teaching still involves traditional frontal teaching with students writing and listening. We have neither money, education, nor infrastructure to allow for new methods of teaching… I think
In developed countries that’s where new methods of teaching, bottom-up adoption of tools, and a much more cost effective, democratized version of education is possible. They have the tools, infrastructure, and knowledge to benefit from the possibilities. They also still have the large budgets, which is why the new education market can take off economically.
Developing countries like Nigeria don’t have any of the prerequisites, which is why we need radically different solutions, NOW. Without knowing these markets, it’s terribly difficult to build the necessary tools. You need to understand the space well to be able to make reasonable impact.
TL;DR: There are a lot of structural problems to overcome or play along — it’s difficult, but exciting.
Learnings whilst working on www.smashrite.com